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Adult Children of Alcoholics

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In the 1980's, Janet Woititz broke new ground in our understanding of what it is to be an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. In this updated edition of her bestseller she re-examines the movement and its inclusion of Adult Children from various dysfunctional family backgrounds who share the same characteristics. After decades of working with ACoAs she shares the recovery hints t In the 1980's, Janet Woititz broke new ground in our understanding of what it is to be an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. In this updated edition of her bestseller she re-examines the movement and its inclusion of Adult Children from various dysfunctional family backgrounds who share the same characteristics. After decades of working with ACoAs she shares the recovery hints that she has found to work. Read Adult Children of Alcoholics to see where the journey began and for ideas on where to go from here.


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In the 1980's, Janet Woititz broke new ground in our understanding of what it is to be an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. In this updated edition of her bestseller she re-examines the movement and its inclusion of Adult Children from various dysfunctional family backgrounds who share the same characteristics. After decades of working with ACoAs she shares the recovery hints t In the 1980's, Janet Woititz broke new ground in our understanding of what it is to be an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. In this updated edition of her bestseller she re-examines the movement and its inclusion of Adult Children from various dysfunctional family backgrounds who share the same characteristics. After decades of working with ACoAs she shares the recovery hints that she has found to work. Read Adult Children of Alcoholics to see where the journey began and for ideas on where to go from here.

30 review for Adult Children of Alcoholics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    This isn’t going to be a long or in depth review by any means. On the recommendation of my therapist, I picked this up with the understanding it could help me deal with the repercussions of growing up a part of an alcoholic household. If you can classify yourself as an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (or Alcoholics), I strongly recommend this book. Many of the direct quotes from those the author worked with could apply to me at various stages of my life. This book isn’t going to change your life, you This isn’t going to be a long or in depth review by any means. On the recommendation of my therapist, I picked this up with the understanding it could help me deal with the repercussions of growing up a part of an alcoholic household. If you can classify yourself as an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (or Alcoholics), I strongly recommend this book. Many of the direct quotes from those the author worked with could apply to me at various stages of my life. This book isn’t going to change your life, you still have to act on the advice from the author, but it helps to know you’re not alone.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    I learned to understand why I've made some of the choices that I've made and how my personality formed the way that it did. Be careful NOT to let this book serve as an excuse for dysfunction, but, as a way to understand it and to liberate yourself from it! It was very eye-opening as I saw parts of myself on many of the pages. We can't change our past but we can ruin a perfectly good future if we don't learn from it! I learned to understand why I've made some of the choices that I've made and how my personality formed the way that it did. Be careful NOT to let this book serve as an excuse for dysfunction, but, as a way to understand it and to liberate yourself from it! It was very eye-opening as I saw parts of myself on many of the pages. We can't change our past but we can ruin a perfectly good future if we don't learn from it!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    It's a hard and painful book to read, but if you've had a tough childhood, it might help you understand some things about yourself better, and hopefully, start moving forward. It's hard to sum up my feelings while reading it, but they're roughly what the author predicts they would be - pain, anger and grief. However, she also predicts reactions such as relief (that you're not alone in this) and happiness at being able to move forward. Perhaps you will experience those reactions while reading thi It's a hard and painful book to read, but if you've had a tough childhood, it might help you understand some things about yourself better, and hopefully, start moving forward. It's hard to sum up my feelings while reading it, but they're roughly what the author predicts they would be - pain, anger and grief. However, she also predicts reactions such as relief (that you're not alone in this) and happiness at being able to move forward. Perhaps you will experience those reactions while reading this. One thing that must be said about this book though, is that it's NOT a solution roadmap - but perhaps it can be the first step towards finding one. It merely states what happens to adult children of alcoholics, or what can happen, and gives brief guidelines on how to move forward. But it won't give you in depth ideas. However, the author states that that wasn't the purpose of the book to begin with, so just don't go in with these expectations. From what I've gathered, this was a trailblazing book - in a time when the focus was on the alcoholics themselves, and the problems of codependents were treated as if inexistent. This book started the dialog about this, and that's why it's important. Perhaps there are now more books on the subject that are focused on possible solutions on how to move past the problems that are outlined in Adult Children of Alcoholics. But I believe that this will remain an important read on the subject for many years to come.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is a must-read for anyone who grew up in a family where addiction was an issue. It is so important to begin to understand the effects of that family system on one's sense of self and on one's relationships. It is a book I recommend to all of my clients when they have grown up in this kind of environment. This is a must-read for anyone who grew up in a family where addiction was an issue. It is so important to begin to understand the effects of that family system on one's sense of self and on one's relationships. It is a book I recommend to all of my clients when they have grown up in this kind of environment.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    It explains so much of my anxiety in everyday life. I don't feel so alone. It explains so much of my anxiety in everyday life. I don't feel so alone.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Monaco

    This is such a personal topic and journey that I cannot justify saying you should or shouldn't read ACOA. What I can say is that, many questions I had or couldn't quite articulate were spelled out in plain English. This book changed my life, and I finally feel free. I can only hope that others who have suffered from an alcoholic parent/s find the same comfort and strength that I found reading ACOA. We deserve that much. This is such a personal topic and journey that I cannot justify saying you should or shouldn't read ACOA. What I can say is that, many questions I had or couldn't quite articulate were spelled out in plain English. This book changed my life, and I finally feel free. I can only hope that others who have suffered from an alcoholic parent/s find the same comfort and strength that I found reading ACOA. We deserve that much.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    This book was excellent at making the distinction between blaming your parents for everything and using your past and how your parents treated you (and may still treat you) as a framework to understand different behaviors and reactions you have in the present. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has alcoholism in their family. I could have done without the poetry, but the real life examples were good. It was refreshing to have so many aspects described so articulately. I think that i This book was excellent at making the distinction between blaming your parents for everything and using your past and how your parents treated you (and may still treat you) as a framework to understand different behaviors and reactions you have in the present. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has alcoholism in their family. I could have done without the poetry, but the real life examples were good. It was refreshing to have so many aspects described so articulately. I think that it will be helpful in making a conscious effort to change different characteristics of myself that I don't like. This book made me feel less alone-- there are other people who are going through the same things. Overall-- it validated a lot of feelings I have and makes me feel more optimistic about the future.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Timmy Cham

    We've long known that children of alcoholics are impacted by their upbringing in an alcoholic home. After all, Alateen was established in 1957. But the idea that such effects persisted into adulthood was rarely attended to before the 1980, before the founding of ACoA in 1978 and the publication of Claudia Black's bestseller It Will Never Happen to Me! in 1987. Woititz's doctoral thesis (1976) and this book (1983) are early explorations of the issues confronting Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA We've long known that children of alcoholics are impacted by their upbringing in an alcoholic home. After all, Alateen was established in 1957. But the idea that such effects persisted into adulthood was rarely attended to before the 1980, before the founding of ACoA in 1978 and the publication of Claudia Black's bestseller It Will Never Happen to Me! in 1987. Woititz's doctoral thesis (1976) and this book (1983) are early explorations of the issues confronting Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoAs). Woititz's book is clearly written and well-organized. It falls into three parts: 1) How does a parent's alcoholism impact children? In the introduction and Part One, Woititz discusses three main effects of children's exposure to an alcoholic household: First, such a child is robbed of his or her chance at a carefree childhood (pp. 3-4); since being carefree requires a safe, predictable environment--and an alcoholic household is anything but--this loss of "carefreeness" certainly makes sense. Similarly, Woititz points out that such children's self-esteem is often damaged (pp. xxii-xxiii): "The literature indicates that the conditions which lead an individual to value himself...can be...summarized by the terms 'Parental warmth,' 'clearly defined limits' and 'respectful treatment.'" But, obviously, such conditions are at best inconsistent in an alcoholic household. Thirdly, Woititz points out that, in response to the child's need to keep the "family secret" of a parent's alcoholism, and the child's damaged self-esteem, a child often takes on one of four (now-famous) "family roles" to cope with the problem at home: a) Hero: The child seeks self-esteem through hyper-responsibility and over- achievement. b) Scapegoat: The child becomes a conspicuous troublemaker. Perhaps this is a kind of "self-fulfilling prophecy": If an alcoholic parent constantly berates a child as "no good," the child ends up "living up to the label" and behaves like a "no goodnik." On the other hand, perhaps the child's misbehavior is exaggerated, and becomes the scapegoat in a family's futile attempt to distract from the 1,000- pound elephant in the household (viz., the alcoholic parent). c) Mascot/Clown The child seeks to be a humorous center-of-attention. Perhaps this is an effect of trying to use humor to defuse tense family conflicts concerning a parent's alcoholism. This "court jester" personality becomes a way of life for the Mascot. d) Lost Child The child withdraws from the stressful world into his or her own imaginations and pursuits. Of course, these Roles of Children of Alcoholics is now in all the textbooks 2) How does a child's experiences of an alcoholic household persist into adulthood? Woititz lists 13 traits which have an increased likelihood in ACoAs: *Guess at what normal behavior is *Have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end *Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth *Judge themselves without mercy *Have difficulty having fun *Take themselves very seriously *Have difficulty with intimate relationships *Overreact to changes over which they have no control *Constantly seek approval and affirmation *Feel that they're different from other people *Are super responsible or super irresponsible *Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved *Are impulsive Note: It's worth comparing this list to the 1978 "Laundry List" compiled by ACoA support groups. 3) How might we mitigate the damaged caused by an upbringing in an alcoholic household? Once an ACOA notices some (or all) of the above 13 characteristics in their own orientation towards life, such deficits can be confronted. In the third part of Woititz's book, she recounts various common-sense thoughts and actions to help guide the ACOA away from the deficit(s). I tend to think that an ACOA might require more support than just reading 70 pages in a book (pp. 97-168). Sustained individual- or group- therapy may very well be called for. For a lucid illustration of what such therapy looks like, see Szifra Birke's book, Together We Heal. All-in-all, this is a fine primer for those who wish to inquire about the issues attaching to upbringing in an alcoholic household.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Manan Nayak

    I didn't grow up with alcoholics but it was a good read nonetheless. For the most part it is geared towards ACoA but I think anyone who grew up with any kind of dysfunction or anyone who wants to extra make sure to not inadvertently do any damage bringing up their own children would benefit from reading this book. I didn't grow up with alcoholics but it was a good read nonetheless. For the most part it is geared towards ACoA but I think anyone who grew up with any kind of dysfunction or anyone who wants to extra make sure to not inadvertently do any damage bringing up their own children would benefit from reading this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    Are you the adult child of an alcoholic? Do you have friends or family members that fall into this category? Have you ever wondered what makes you/them tick? If so, I highly recommend you read this little book by Janet Geringer Woititz who describes the typical traits and characteristics of people who have had a lot to overcome from an early age. The author identifies very clearly what kinds of behaviors and attitudes you might expect from ACOA's as well as guidance on how to overcome some of th Are you the adult child of an alcoholic? Do you have friends or family members that fall into this category? Have you ever wondered what makes you/them tick? If so, I highly recommend you read this little book by Janet Geringer Woititz who describes the typical traits and characteristics of people who have had a lot to overcome from an early age. The author identifies very clearly what kinds of behaviors and attitudes you might expect from ACOA's as well as guidance on how to overcome some of the more troubling aspects of their personalities and behavioral styles. For example, adult children of alcoholics judge themselves very harshly, taking themselves very seriously, and perfectionism is the norm. In addition, they have problems finishing projects all the way through in addition to having a difficult time doing things just for fun. ACOA's also have tendencies to lie unnecessarily, and feel different from other people. Intimate relationships are not easy for them, but they are extremely loyal. often to their own detriment. They can be either super responsible or highly irresponsible and can be quite impulsive. ACOA's can have a constant need for approval and tend to overreact to things over which they have no control. Do you or your friends/loved ones resemble these remarks? If so, there is plenty of advice on how to turn some of these difficulties around, but it is no easy task. Habits and beliefs get firmly fixed over the years and I have learned as a life coach that they will probably never be completely overcome, just managed. Best to try and use certain techniques and approaches outlined in the book because you will have a much happier life and sense of well being if you can take better control of your life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    This is the second time I have read this book and I am unsure whether it is helpful or not. Yes, I read the pages of this book and think, wow I really do have some of those characteristics, and yes that story sounds similar to my own, but the last time I read this book I felt really down, stuck in the negative gunk of my past and my patterns. I began attending some Al-Anon meetings and the people there were nice but it made me feel broken, needing fixing. it's hard to face the work to be done, m This is the second time I have read this book and I am unsure whether it is helpful or not. Yes, I read the pages of this book and think, wow I really do have some of those characteristics, and yes that story sounds similar to my own, but the last time I read this book I felt really down, stuck in the negative gunk of my past and my patterns. I began attending some Al-Anon meetings and the people there were nice but it made me feel broken, needing fixing. it's hard to face the work to be done, much easier to sweep it under the rug and keep going. I have noticed that I must have done some recovery since the last time I read the book since some of the characteristics don't apply quite as well to me know. But I wonder if it is valuable or detrimental to label myself this way. I also recently read Louse Hay's you can heal your life which is so positive and after reading it made me feel good not bad. Can positive affirmations and self talk change my patterns or do I have to go back to the muck and sort it through first?? I'd like to hear other's experiences with this book. Thanks.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Isabella Roland

    This tiny book provides so much value for those who grew up in a troublesome home environment. While I did not suffer from a traditional alcoholic home life, my father was an alcoholic and he left the picture to go to prison when I was 12 years old. I’ve felt like an adult for the last 11 years and I’m only 23 now. This book has helped me gain insight as to some of my unhealthy patterns such as judging myself without mercy, trouble trusting others, holding onto relationships that aren’t working This tiny book provides so much value for those who grew up in a troublesome home environment. While I did not suffer from a traditional alcoholic home life, my father was an alcoholic and he left the picture to go to prison when I was 12 years old. I’ve felt like an adult for the last 11 years and I’m only 23 now. This book has helped me gain insight as to some of my unhealthy patterns such as judging myself without mercy, trouble trusting others, holding onto relationships that aren’t working for me, my deep fear of abandonment, and just never feeling like I fit in anywhere. This book is great because it really helps you see the light and lets you know that you’re not alone. It’s a short read full of examples and stories from people who grew up in this type of home environment. Your parents didn’t have to be alcoholics to have a profound affect on you. I urge anyone who grew up with a rough home life to read this book to try and understand life better as a functional adult. I’ll be keeping and rereading this one through the years.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Aurélien Thomas

    A good book, outlining some of the most striking and common features of ACoA. It was a very interesting read, because it also gives clues and explanations regarding why such features are prevalent among most ACoA. Is there a need to change, though? The author rightly insists several times: it's not about self-pity and making excuses (I am so-so-and-so because of my childhood etc.) but, understanding why, as ACoA, we are the way we are; and then make our own choices accordingly. I give it only a A good book, outlining some of the most striking and common features of ACoA. It was a very interesting read, because it also gives clues and explanations regarding why such features are prevalent among most ACoA. Is there a need to change, though? The author rightly insists several times: it's not about self-pity and making excuses (I am so-so-and-so because of my childhood etc.) but, understanding why, as ACoA, we are the way we are; and then make our own choices accordingly. I give it only a three star because there's a lot of self promotion, it's repetitive in the last chapters and, most importantly, unlike the author I have trouble believing alcoholism to be a disease. I am not a doctor, but, from my experience, I think it's the product of personal choices -branding it a 'disease' just sounds (to me) like one of these pitiful excuses, serving a victim attitude.

  14. 4 out of 5

    James

    A groundbreaking and lifesaving book! Janet Woititz spoke to a lot of people who thought that no one else had their emotional challenges and helped them see that they weren't crazy and it wasn't hopeless. Without bashing alcoholic parents who were doing the best they could, she helps people understand some life skills and people skills that their role models just weren't able to teach them very well. Given that somewhere over 10% of Americans have had serious drinking problems in past and presen A groundbreaking and lifesaving book! Janet Woititz spoke to a lot of people who thought that no one else had their emotional challenges and helped them see that they weren't crazy and it wasn't hopeless. Without bashing alcoholic parents who were doing the best they could, she helps people understand some life skills and people skills that their role models just weren't able to teach them very well. Given that somewhere over 10% of Americans have had serious drinking problems in past and present generations, and an awful lot of them have had kids, a lot of people - and every psychotherapist - should have this book handy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nerita

    The beginning was really strong and then it was just some random facts and stories.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nick Kroger

    @ me @ me @ me A really important book for folks who lived it and thought that adulthood would be the end of it. Turns out: it’s not. This book put names and feelings to behaviors I could never understand about myself, and I think it does a great job addressing many differentiated experiences that result from homes with addiction. Also, it’s a great book for anyone wanting to study the advent of “family trauma” “dependency” and other buzz words in contemporary psychology. The research for the book @ me @ me @ me A really important book for folks who lived it and thought that adulthood would be the end of it. Turns out: it’s not. This book put names and feelings to behaviors I could never understand about myself, and I think it does a great job addressing many differentiated experiences that result from homes with addiction. Also, it’s a great book for anyone wanting to study the advent of “family trauma” “dependency” and other buzz words in contemporary psychology. The research for the book presented a lot of the early framework in the 70s/80s.

  17. 5 out of 5

    margot

    This was phenomenal, I cried a lot because I've never felt so understood before. This really inspired me. This was phenomenal, I cried a lot because I've never felt so understood before. This really inspired me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jamila

    I read this book for my own personal research into the subject for a little self awareness and maybe for some answers. The book has a broad spectrum of experiences to create a point of relation for a lot of people and provides useful information about dealing in a proactive manner. This did help me open my eyes to a lot of the ways I was dealing and approaching life. It helped me recognize my own behaviors and why I kept getting into unhealthy relationships, didn’t understand “normal, “why my lif I read this book for my own personal research into the subject for a little self awareness and maybe for some answers. The book has a broad spectrum of experiences to create a point of relation for a lot of people and provides useful information about dealing in a proactive manner. This did help me open my eyes to a lot of the ways I was dealing and approaching life. It helped me recognize my own behaviors and why I kept getting into unhealthy relationships, didn’t understand “normal, “why my life always felt like a mess, why I always tore myself apart for mistakes I made (no matter how petty), why I couldn’t laugh and have fun live others, and lastly why I felt so worthless. I’m in a path of self improvement and recovery that I hope to one day fully complete. If you had an alcoholic parent I suggest you read into this subject because without realizing it they did affect you.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Diana Nagy

    This is a great little book for the many children of alcoholics out there. Unfortunately there are many of us and even many more are created today because people just don't know when (or how) to quit. So here we go..a litte book that's going to continue to be needed on a daily basis for those of us affected. It tells you the struggles you may have and allows you to see why you may be the way you are and if you have troubles in that particular area (which I've found personally, you won't in every This is a great little book for the many children of alcoholics out there. Unfortunately there are many of us and even many more are created today because people just don't know when (or how) to quit. So here we go..a litte book that's going to continue to be needed on a daily basis for those of us affected. It tells you the struggles you may have and allows you to see why you may be the way you are and if you have troubles in that particular area (which I've found personally, you won't in every-thank the good Lord) it gives you tips on how you can overcome that to change yourself.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    This book changed my life the first time I read it. I’m the son of an alcoholic mom, and I’m an addict in recovery myself. At a few years sober, I still felt crazy and didn’t know why until I came across this book, and it gave me so many answers and tools. It’s been years since I read this book, but I decided to read it again. Although I’m doing much better, the book pointed out some key areas I still need to work on.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This book seemed to be written about ME. After I finished it, I felt sort of exposed but also liberated knowing that I wasn't the only person with these traits or issues. It's encouraged me to look into Al-Anon meetings and also consider seeing a therapist to help me overcome some of these traits and help myself recover. This book seemed to be written about ME. After I finished it, I felt sort of exposed but also liberated knowing that I wasn't the only person with these traits or issues. It's encouraged me to look into Al-Anon meetings and also consider seeing a therapist to help me overcome some of these traits and help myself recover.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Day

    This is my long time favorate book for any Adult Children of Alcoholics. Almost every ACOA I have worked with relates to the book. Easy to understand. The author introduces you to how being raised in an alcholic system has a current effect on your life. A good first look into this issues.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Very short book and a necessary read for those mentioned in the title. I thought the author must have been following me! :)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Reda

    I hate reading psychological books, I really do. I always thought that you can get as much help or advice from good fiction. But this one wasn't that bad. Actually, I really needed to read this, I needed a book to pin point some issues that I have been not-so-successfully ignoring. A few things I would like to criticise though. -The book was pretty brief. As I finally sat down with a psychological book, I kind of wanted an in-depth analysis. But, I guess, as this book was kind of groundbreaking, I hate reading psychological books, I really do. I always thought that you can get as much help or advice from good fiction. But this one wasn't that bad. Actually, I really needed to read this, I needed a book to pin point some issues that I have been not-so-successfully ignoring. A few things I would like to criticise though. -The book was pretty brief. As I finally sat down with a psychological book, I kind of wanted an in-depth analysis. But, I guess, as this book was kind of groundbreaking, when it came out in the 80s, the point of it was to show the society that 'hey, there's kind of a big problem here too'. -The second thing was the Lithuanian translation... It felt pretty generic and awkward, but I usually have a problem with translations anyway. All in all, if you feel that this applies to you even a little bit, read it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Olga

    I cannot really rate this book any lower than five stars because it has introduced me to perhaps the most important revelation of my life - that I am a child of an alcoholic. This fact was staring me directly in the face for decades, but it wasn't until someone uttered the words Adult Children of Alcoholics, that it actually came into focus for me. I appreciate this book for what it's introduced me to and the learning that is ahead of me. I cannot really rate this book any lower than five stars because it has introduced me to perhaps the most important revelation of my life - that I am a child of an alcoholic. This fact was staring me directly in the face for decades, but it wasn't until someone uttered the words Adult Children of Alcoholics, that it actually came into focus for me. I appreciate this book for what it's introduced me to and the learning that is ahead of me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Raine McLeod

    This book called me out. I will need a paperback copy for sure. Even the list of common traits in ACOA was just like, chapters in my autobiography. I figured I was just broken. Turns out I might still be, but there are reasons.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Birdie Duplessis

    I give this book 10 out of 5 stars⭐ This book is unbelievably helpful. Speaks right to the heart of the ACoA. Helpful for the survivors & for professionals. The stories of individuals is especially helpful, in feeling validating. Every page is pure gold.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    Helpful for everyone, even those who grew up in home without (much) dysfunction.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    I am so thankful to my therapist for lending this book to me. It puts a lot of disorganized, shameful, scary info/experiences into neat boxes/patterns and makes me feel less alone and less overwhelmed. I already have some ideas for concrete action steps. I just hope that I keep coming back to this book and its findings and advice. Thank you, Dr. Woititz, for thinking of us!!!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ami Punki

    I can finally take a deep breath because now I understand the impact that an alcoholic parent can have on you when you're a kid. And why I see only Black and White in a lot of situations, why I cannot sleep unless I'm in a completely silent surrounding or why I have always been a perfectionist. Eye-opening! Now I can start my healing! Nothing more to say! I can finally take a deep breath because now I understand the impact that an alcoholic parent can have on you when you're a kid. And why I see only Black and White in a lot of situations, why I cannot sleep unless I'm in a completely silent surrounding or why I have always been a perfectionist. Eye-opening! Now I can start my healing! Nothing more to say!

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